Mittwoch, 26. Dezember 2012

Antecedents of Successful Virtual Communities

In this review paper, Anita L. Blanchard [1] ties together several studies on one of the most interesting issues in virtual community research: What makes a virtual community successful? Virtual community success is defined as the ability for the virtual community
  • to sustain itself while 
  • meeting its members’ needs and
  • maintaining member satisfaction within the community.

Objective indicators - the virtual settlement

Jones [2] argues that objective components of the community’s existence go hand in hand with its success forming a virtual settlement (A virtual settlement is distinct from a virtual community like buildings are distinct from a village. However, once a virtual settlement has been found one is likely to have identified a virtual community). The components of a virtual settlement are:
  • a minimal level of interactivity, 
  • by a variety of communicators,
  • with a minimum level of sustained membership, and 
  • interacting in a common public space. 

Social processes indicating a successful community

A different line of research enquires into the social processes which support the functioning of virtual communties such as
  • the exchange of socio-emotional and informational support between members,
  • the development of trust between members, 
  • the development of behavioural norms and their enforcement via
  • e-collaboration techniques.
Exchange of information and support
  • Organizational citizenship behaviour - Constant et al. (1997) [3] found that members who provide online help and support to others in a work virtual community are more likely to have a higher regard for and to be good citizens of the sponsoring work organization (organizational citizenship behavior = prosocial extra-role behavior that helps organizational functioning). 
  • Status/demonstration of expertise - Wasko & Faraj (2005) [4] have found that members provide information when it enhances their status and demonstrates their expertise.
Trust between members
The development and maintenance of trust is also very important in virtual communities (e.g., Boyd, 2002) [5] because deception is so easy online (Joinson & Dietz-Uhler, 2002) [6]. Social processes addressing this issue include having members interact using their own name and their “real” e-mail addresses, as well as following the history of member’s posts. One of the more successful modes for developing trust is when virtual community members meet face-to-face (Joinson, 2001; McKenna & Green, 2002) [7]. Even members who do not actually meet face-to-face but hear of others who do, believe that the group is more trustworthy (Blanchard & Markus, 2004) [8].

Behavioural norms
Norms of behaviour include topics of conversation and styles of conversation in the group. But what makes group members follow the norms? Spears & Lea (1992) [9] argue that virtual community members either identify as a member of the group (social identity is salient) or they identify as a unique individual within the group (individual identity is salient). Members are going to be more susceptible to group processes when their group identity is salient. Thus, the member's willingness to follow the group’s norms has to do with the salience of the group member’s social or individual identity.

E-collaboration technologies
Although the social processes in virtual communities are important, the technological features available for e-collaboration are clearly important, too.
  • Walther (1996, 1997) [10], for instance, has a rather deterministic approach neglecting social processes: If the technology is configured in a particular way, then a virtual community will likely develop upon it.
  • Markus (2005) [11] emphasizes the interaction between the social processes and the technology that affect virtual community success. According to this view technology does not cause behavior online, but certain technological features can support (or hinder) particular types of interaction, and, by extension, support (or hinder) the success of the virtual community.

[1] Blanchard, A. L. (2008). Definition, antecedents, and outcomes of successful virtual communities. Retrieved December, 15, 2009. Google Scholar.

[2] Jones, Q. (1997). Virtual‐Communities, Virtual Settlements & Cyber‐Archaeology: A Theoretical Outline. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 3(3), 0-0. Google Scholar.

[3] Constant, David, Lee Sproull, and Sara Kiesler. "The kindness of strangers: The usefulness of electronic weak ties for technical advice." Organization science 7.2 (1996): 119-135. Google Scholar.

[4] Wasko, M. M., & Faraj, S. (2005). Why should I share? Examining social capital and knowledge contribution in electronic networks of practice. MIS quarterly, 35-57. Google Scholar.

[5] Boyd, J. (2002). In community we trust: Online security communication at eBay. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 7(3), 0-0. Google Scholar.

[6] Joinson, A. N., & Dietz-Uhler, B. (2002). Explanations for the perpetration of and reactions to deception in a virtual community. Social Science Computer Review, 20(3), 275-289. Google Scholar.

[7] Joinson, A. N. (2001). Self‐disclosure in computer‐mediated communication: The role of self‐awareness and visual anonymity. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31(2), 177-192. Google Scholar.

McKenna, K. Y., & Green, A. S. (2002). Virtual group dynamics. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(1), 116. Google Scholar.

[8] Blanchard, A. L., & Markus, M. L. (2004). The experienced sense of a virtual community: Characteristics and processes. ACM SIGMIS Database, 35(1), 64-79. Google Scholar.

[9] Spears, R., & Lea, M. (1992). Social influence and the influence of the'social'in computer-mediated communication. Harvester Wheatsheaf.

[10] Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication research, 23(1), 3-43. Google Scholar.

Walther, J. B. (1997). Group and interpersonal effects in interactional computer mediated collaboration. Human Communication Research, 23, 342-369. Google Scholar.

[11] Markus, M. L. (2005). Technology-shaping effects of e-collaboration technologies: Bugs and features. International Journal of e-Collaboration (IJeC), 1(1), 1-23. Google Scholar.

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